December 22, 2010


This powerful little prose poem would have been a good example to include in our post for the prompt from November...

Shooting the Horse

I unlatch the stall door, step inside, and stroke the silky neck
of the old mare like a lover about to leave. I take an ear in
hand, fold it over, and run my fingers across her muzzle. I
coax her head up so I can blow into those nostrils. All part of
the routine we taught each other long ago. I turn a half turn,
pull a pistol from my coat, raise it to that long brow with the
white blaze and place it between her sleepy eyes. I clear my
throat. A sound much louder than it should be. I squeeze the
trigger and the horse's feet fly out from under her as gravity
gives way to a force even more austere, which we have named

by David Shumate,

from High Water Mark
High Water Mark: Prose Poems (Pitt Poetry Series)

The Floating Bridge: Prose Poems (Pitt Poetry Series)
The Floating Bridge: Prose Poems

December 14, 2010

Moving Into Winter: Solstice Poems

There's an interesting astronomical coincidence on December 21, 2010. There will be a full moon on the day of the Winter Solstice.

I did some online searching for poems about both events combined, but couldn't find any. There are a large number of poems about full moons and solstices and winter, of course.

I wrote a post last year at this time, because we had another coincidence - a full moon to end 2009 on December 31, and it was also the second full moon of the month - so it was a "Blue Moon.”

Solstices have long been celebrated and written about. It is the shortest day of the year and the longest night, and it officially marks the first day of winter.

Solstices are one of the oldest known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years.

You probably know that many of the most ancient stone structures made by human beings were designed to pinpoint the precise date of the solstice. The most famous example is the stone circles of Stonehenge which were placed to receive the first rays of midwinter sun.

We often see winter - in everyday life and in poetry - as a depressing time of year. Death symbolism abounds. At least in northern climes, you tend to be confined indoors. Outside looks bare and dead.

But solstice celebrations focus on hope with ithe reversal of shortening days. It is more seen as a time to celebrate the rebirth of the year.

The word solstice derives from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) since to the ancients the sun did seem to stand still. In Greek mythology, the gods and goddesses had meetings on the winter and summer solstice.

In many cultural histories, this is the time when virgin mothers give birth to sacred sons: Rhiannon to Pryderi, Isis to Horus, Demeter to Persephone and Mary to Jesus.

You can take a scientific look at the solstice. We know that as the Earth travels around the Sun in its orbit, the north-south position of the Sun changes over the course of the year. That is because of the changing orientation of the Earth's tilted rotation axes with respect to the Sun.  When we arrive at the points of maximum tilt (marked at the equator), we get the summer and winter solstice.

This month our writing prompt is to write a poem that uses the solstice (and perhaps the Full Moon) without falling into the cliches of winter and moon symbolism.

Two of the poems I did find in my moon and solstice search are the models for our writing prompt for this month.

The first is "December Moon" from May Sarton's collection Coming into Eighty.

The second model is Mary Oliver's poem "Herons in Winter in the Frozen Marsh" (from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays)

With the busy holiday season and a late start with this prompt, I have moved the submission deadline a bit further into next month - Sunday, January 9.

Have a great solstice, winter, and new year!

December 9, 2010

Celebrating Elvis Presley's Birthday in Poetry and Song

Elvis reading

Expressing Elvis: Celebrating Elvis Presley's Birthday in Poetry and Song is an event in Ridgewood, NJ on January 8, 2011.

"Elvis Presley is Alive and Well on Lincoln Avenue in Fair Lawn, New Jersey...." So reads the title of a poem by Maria Mazziotti Gillan.

On that same road but a little farther north -- in Ridgewood -- Elvis will be coming back. He will be alive and well -- in poetry and song.

It seems like every poet has an Elvis poem or two. In honor of Elvis Presley's birthday, join poets Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Laura Boss, James Gwyn, and others as they share their Elvis poems.

January 8, 2011, from 1-4 pm at Ridgewood Christian Reformed Church, 271 Lincoln Avenue, Ridgewood, NJ. Plenty of free parking. A large space to accommodate all manner of bards and balladeers. Express Elvis in verse or in any variety of expression. Come on out to listen or to participate. Tune up your guitar. Dust off your jumpsuit. It will be a memorable afternoon. It's free. All are welcome.

Note to Poets: If you'd like to participate, please submit your intent to James Gwyn at by Dec. 31st so he can get a reading list together. RSVP

Note to Singers: Acoustic, please. There are some mics, but best to bring your own. RSVP

December 1, 2010

Caring Communication Heals - Bringing Caregivers Closer

The Victor A. Bressler Humanities in Medicine Retreat
Caring Communication Heals - Bringing Caregivers Closer
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey • Carnegie Library • Atlantic City, NJ
Friday, December 10, 2010

Featuring Keynote Speakers: John L. Coulehan, MD, MPH, FACP and poet on “Gentle and Humane Temper: Empathy and Engagement in Clinical Practice,” and Jon Nussbaum, PhD, speaking on “The Challenge of Effective Intergenerational Communicatio."

Caregivers attending the 20th Annual “Bringing Caregivers Closer” will explore the role of ethical healthcare communication inspired by the arts and humanities which are vital to the healing process.

Panelists and breakout leaders include poets and writers, Renee Ashley, Barbara Daniels, Douglas Goetsch, Kenneth Hart, Penny Harter, Diane Kaufman & J.C. Todd. Facilitated by Peter E. Murphy.

Breakout sessions involve reading, discussing and writing poetry and short prose pieces.

7:45 a.m. - 8:15 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast
8:30 a.m. - 4:15 p.m. Presentations

$20 to offset cost of meals (Includes continental breakfast & lunch)

CME's available for Physicians, Nurses, Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Professional Counselors and NJ Public Health Professionals.

Pre-registration required

Target Audience: Physicians, Residents, Nurses, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Multi-Disciplinary Allied and Mental Health Professionals, Physical/Occupational Therapists, First Responders, Poets, Writers, Students of the Humanities and Public Health.

• Utilize a variety of approaches, including lecture, panel, small group discussion, review of literature
and personal writing to explore barriers and solutions in healthcare communication.
• Analyze poems, short fiction, non-fiction and personal writing to recognize their personal choice and responsibility to communicate ethically to foster healing communication.

Information and registration link, or call 1-888-569-1000